Android is getting momentum with more phone vendors gearing up to release Android phones this year. While I don’t think Android is at par with the iPhone yet, it is a much more compelling platform for innovation. The openness of Android is a blessing and a curse. The community around Android will flourish since developers and startups will be more comfortable investing in an open platform. Open also means that the platform is subject to abuse and without regulation will suffer from low quality software. These factors and more will foster a new community of mobile vendors. Here are a few predictions-
We’ll see a host of Android distributions (a la RedHat) crop up in the next 1-2 years. These distributions will provide a supported software suite with consistent behaviour and look and feel. As the Android Market gets flooded with applications it will be difficult for users to select the best applications. Having a consistent distribution managed and supported by a single vendor will be compelling for the mass market.
Along the same lines as distributions, there is need to have a third-party assess applications for their stability, quality, behaviour and user interface. While the community can do much of this, we’ll see new Android markets that offer a certification process. There is always money in certification.
A common criticism of the iPhone and the reason that the Blackberry has done so well is that the Enterprise needs secure, robust messaging and support. This means integrating with Microsoft Exchange and Zimbra, but also providing secure groupware tools for communication and collaboration. I suspect there are folks already working no this. If you are, I’d be interested in hearing about it.
One thing that bugs me about Android platform is that it has the potential to be as good or better than the iPhone for entertainment. It’s going to require co-ordination with the phone manufacturers to enable Android to compete in this area. There are already applications cropping up to fill the lack of video support on the G1, but what is more important to me is that the phone manufacturers add simple features such a headphone socket. One killer feature of the iPod was the dock, since it grows an ecosystem of hardware vendors too. I hope the next generation of Android phones look to replicate this.
The focus on Android is primarily on phone devices but it is clear that the operating system could be suitable for other types of devices such as tablets, netbooks and internet/media devices. In fact vendors have started hinting at more Android-powered devices such as the Archos Internet tablet.